I just raced 13.1 miles...Now what should I eat?
Refueling after half marathons is often overlooked, but it’s crucial. You just spent 13.1 miles pushing your body to the limit and putting your body under a lot of stress. To get the most out of your efforts and give yourself the best chance to recover quickly, you need to replenish your body’s depleted nutrients. While you relied mostly on carbohydrates to give you quick and easily-digestible energy during the race, you’ll need additional carbohydrates to refill your glycogen stores and protein to kickstart muscle repair, along with fluid and electrolytes to rehydrate.
Immediately after the race: Protein, Carbs, Electrolytes, Fluids
Recovery is centered around replenishing the body and repairing damage to the muscle, as increases in strength occurs from muscles getting broken down and repaired. After a race or exercise, you have 30-60 min to replenish the glycogen (fuel) and electrolytes (hydration) that your body used and provide your muscles with the necessary building blocks (amino acids) to repair damage to the muscle.
Ideal post-race fuel will contain each the following:
- Protein to start rebuilding muscle
- Carbohydrates to restore glycogen levels in the muscles and liver
- Electrolytes to replace what you lose in sweat
We think recovery smoothies are ideal because they check off everything needed in one convenient, easily-consumable drink. Make your post-race smoothie the night before your race by blending your favorite fruit and liquid with some Recovery Drink Mix. (You can find pro recipes here). If you don’t have access to a blender, you can just combine a packet of Recovery Drink Mix with water or milk. Even chocolate milk will help you restock your nutritional needs.
Don't forget your meal
In addition, make sure to get in a meal within 2 hours to allow for complete nutrient restocking. Be sure to include a complete protein, some complex carbs, and a healthy fat for a complete meal.
Start the recovery process early by replenishing your nutrients via a mixture of carbohydrates, protein, electrolyte, and fluids within 30-60 minutes of crossing the line.
Later that day...treat yourself!
While your nutrition strategy should be approached as an important aspect of training and racing, it is also important to celebrate your accomplishments. Many people crave indulgent foods after longer races, and most half marathons have post-race drinks and food trucks waiting after the finish line. Once you have checked off the boxes for electrolytes (hydration), carbohydrates (fuel), and protein (recovery), don’t be afraid to enjoy a small post-race treat. You earned it.